After spending two years living on opposite coasts and pursuing their own creative projects, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp came back together last spring to set to work on the sixth full-length album from the Rosebuds. Joining up with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon (a friend and former bandmate who, in a 2011 interview, noted that the Rosebuds make “some of the most important music in the world”), the North Carolina-bred duo spent a week in Vernon’s studio teasing out a batch of songs that effortlessly weave the hooky songcraft of classic jangle-pop, the cagey romanticism of new wave, and a refined yet full-hearted sensibility all their own. Featuring Vernon on guitar and synths—as well as Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan and Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn on bass, both longtime pals and cohorts of the Rosebuds—the resulting Sand + Silence radiates both a graceful intensity and the loose, joyful energy that comes from making music with friends.
Extracting brilliance from easy collaboration is old hat to the Rosebuds, who formed in 2001 and carried out their first live shows as performance-art pieces that turned the stage into a replica of their own living room. “From the beginning we knew we weren’t going to be a regular band, that we wanted to keep it fun and creative, like an ongoing art project,” says Crisp. With their most recent releases including collections of original Christmas and Halloween songs and a record of Sade covers, the Rosebuds catalog reveals the restlessness of their creative appetites by shifting from the acoustic balladry of 2005’s Birds Make Good Neighbors to the dark synth-pop of 2007’s Night of the Furies to the dreamy indie-rock of 2011’s Loud Planes Fly Low. “One of the main things that’s kept this band going is we have no rules about what kind of music we should record or who can help us record it” says Howard. “We’ve always kept it free and open, and never been scared to go in strange directions. The songs themselves, whatever they want to become, are always first.” But despite the anything-goes approach, the Rosebuds invariably stay true to a melody-centric musicality that’s driven by their singular chemistry, delicately crafted songwriting, and untamable excitement about the possibilities in making art.
Co-produced by the Rosebuds, Vernon, and BJ Burton, Sand + Silence began when Howard (who had recently launched a solo project under the name Howard Ivans) came to New York in early 2013 to work with Crisp (who had newly entered Columbia University’s graduate program for fiction writing). While their original intention was to revamp a number of songs cut from Loud Planes Fly Low and turn those tracks into an EP, Howard ended up sitting down at a piano in the studio and sketching out a whole new series of songs. “I decided to quit trying to force the older songs into something that worked for us, and instead write some new ideas and just see what happened without any pretense,” he says. “Right away it just felt really good and sounded like a new Rosebuds record to me—the tone and melodies reminded me of the lightness of the early Rosebuds days, with this feeling of the music being new and inspiring but still so simple that almost anybody could play it.” Once they settled into Vernon’s April Base Studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the Rosebuds devoted a week to bringing those new songs to life by recording live (a previously unexplored tactic for the band). “Everyone in the room we were working with is such a great musician, so we’d hit record and the whole thing would just sail,” says Crisp. “Everything would get done in just one or two takes, and the songs all ended up having this buoyancy to them.”
On Sand + Silence, that buoyancy’s abundant in songs like “In My Teeth” (a darkly charged but groove-laced stunner steeped in bittersweet memory), “Blue Eyes” (a summery-perfect pop powerhouse built on Motown-inspired rhythms), “Mine, Mine, Mine” (an early-Beatles-esque lark of a love song), and “Death of an Old Bike” (a track that wraps its swirling guitars and woozy harmonies around lyrics about finding hope at the most down-and-out times). But even in its moodier moments (such as the high-drama synth and urgent harmonies in the home-state homage of “Esse Quam Videri”), Sand + Silence shimmers with a sense of promise and possibility—a dynamic that the tense but breezy title track twists into lyrics like “Lonely blue above/Give me a cloud or something right here/‘Cause I’m unfolding in the light right now right here.” And in the doo-wop waltz of “Looking For,” the lovesick sway of “Give Me a Reason,” and the stripped-down yet soaring reverie of “Tiny Bones” (whose vocals were recorded in the woods outside Vernon’s studio, serendipitously capturing the start of a rainstorm and which can be heard closing out the album), Sand + Silence’s starry-eyed melancholy takes on a near-transcendent quality.
With The Other Person is You songwriter El May - also known as Lara Meyerratken - has created an album full of love, loss, desire, and strength. Get to know the layered and orchestral The Other Person is You – with it’s striking images and auditory delights – and it will come as no surprise that before building a career as a freelance musician and composer, Meyerratken was a painter and printmaker, and still makes time for visual experiments.
The Other Person is You came to be when, after a string of romantic disappointments, Meyerratken embarked on a period of quiet self-evaluation. How does one love without transferring unfair expectations onto another person? What does it mean to take care of oneself? These inquiries led to an inspiring realization: all the people we encounter in our lives, whether they are foes or friends, are only aspects of ourselves.
Lyrically, the songs on The Other Person is You show a psychological interest in noticing and questioning our patterns in relationships, our habits and tendencies, and the search for their origins. Meyerratken elaborates: “In time it becomes clear that our difficult experiences in relationships help birth us into a new phase. The hurt and frustration that another person can cause us throws into relief exactly what we need to look at within ourselves. People play a role, as if they were under a divine contract to bring us to a certain place.”
This realization was the key to unlocking a journey toward personal responsibility and spiritual liberation, and the driving force behind a record that takes listeners on an auditory journey through a young woman’s interior landscape. We meet her demons, her lovers, her friends, her authority figures. Regarding the sunny, harmony-driven ‘Science’ Meyerratken calls it “a bit of a battle between two animals, this best self - the best intentioned self - and our addicted, hypnotized selves.” While in the slow-jam, disco-pop duet ‘Diamonds, Girl’, she suggests that we turn the longing for another back toward ourselves. “The energy we output towards romantic relationships is the same stuff we can use for creativity, and we sometimes find ourselves hemorrhaging precious life force, our libido, on relationships going nowhere.”
The wishes, hopes, and discoveries contained in these songs paint a portrait of a woman determined to transmute her capacity for love into understanding and compassion for herself. The final two songs on the record, the spare and vulnerable ‘Atlantic, Pacific’ and orchestral, heroic ‘Oh, Get Carried’, are homages to self-care and trust in the divine embrace. “It doesn't matter how winding, strange and lonely our paths can be, we are carried….We can be hurt, alone and tumbled around, but our faith, our quiet work is what carries us. Our quiet faith is what carries us. Our quiet faith in something that carries us.”
Meyerratken wrote The Other Person is You at seldom-used picnic tables in secluded parts of the Griffith Park trails, in her cosy Los Feliz apartment and late into the night at her parents’ dining table when visiting family in England.
When it came time to put the self-produced The Other Person is You to tape Meyerratken spent many solitary early mornings at the commercial music house where she worked. “The huge amount of time I had to spend alone and focused, writing and then recording….it’s satisfying, but after all that time, you still come out with something invisible - music…invisible vibrations.” In response, she resurrected a fervor for painting, dance and ceramics as a way to remember “how to be in my body, relate to people, be in the visual world and work with physical things.”
For all the solitary time Meyerratken spent writing and producing, there’s a celebratory excitement in the album, owing to her recruitment of a “bunch of friends that live around me in LA.” (calling them special guests would be too formal) including Allison Pierce (The Pierces), Koool G Murder (The Eels), Chris Cheney (The Living End), Sean Eden (Luna*), members of The Silver Lake Chorus, Sara Lov (Devics), Blake Hazard (The Submarines), Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines*) and Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham (Luna, Dean & Britta).
The result is a record as a love-letter to the fully-lived life, written by a woman who dedicates her days to searching for answers to her big questions through making music and art. “The record itself became the resolution to all this searching,” says Lara. "There’s an alchemy in turning experiences into music that brings about so much of the repair. The discipline, the right to make a noise, being invisible verses existing, intangible hurt into something I can begin to understand, something people might be able to dance to.”
This is the second full-length album written, produced and performed by El May. Her self-titled debut LP was released in 2010, and received radio support from KCRW and KEXP, and was licensed for television (Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, Melrose Place) and film (Our Idiot Brother). Pr